Over the weekend my attention was drawn to this opinion piece by Steve Downes which criticises UKIP for their support of the Tory candidate in North Norfolk. The ‘Blukip’ coalition – prevalent now across the country – is an attempt to unseat sitting MPs. But while we kick and scream about the idea of two right-wing parties colluding, the idea of tactical voting isn’t new, and it’s how I came to first vote Lib Dem in the 2010 General Election.
You see when I was perhaps a naïve student back in my first General Election in 2010 I was told by a variety of people that in north Norfolk that the only way to keep the Tories out was to vote for the Lib Dem candidate Norman Lamb. That’s despite at the time wanting to see a Labour government and wanting Gordon Brown to remain in power. Being a student the idea that the Lib Dems would end tuition fees seemed attractive, and the noises they made on slowing down the scale of cuts and protecting the NHS had me eventually agreeing with Nick.
That feeling of positivity lasted until about 24 hours after polling day. The longer the coalition talks went on the more unsure I became of my vote. What was possibly taking the Lib Dems so long to decide on a coalition with Labour? My worst fears were confirmed days later when David Cameron stood outside the doors of Number 10 with Nick Clegg. Rather than keeping the Tories out like they’d promised on their leaflet they’d given them the keys to Downing Street. I no longer agreed with Nick.
When people tell me there’s only one option in North Norfolk to stop the Tories I shrug. I was told that seven years ago and my vote only helped accelerate a Conservative agenda. Norman Lamb had become a ‘yes man’ to every Tory policy in return for a bigger pay packet and a ministerial car. So much so that his voting record shows little difference between him and Theresa May. He’d voted for the spending cuts – even though his leader warned the way George Osborne slung his axe meant we’d end up like Greece. He voted for the NHS cuts, reorganisation, and increased privatisation – even though he’d said the NHS wasn’t safe with the Tories. He was a business minister when the government plotted to sell off Royal Mail, he was a health minister when ambulance response times got worse and mental health spending fell.
To their credit, some Lib Dems had refused to serve government to abstain or oppose these issues, but MPs like Norman were helping to make Tory policy happen. Now seven years later, despite having a bumpy ride with my support for the Labour leadership in recent years, I feel the choice on election day is clearer, especially here as there are only three candidates. A Lib Dem, a Tory, or Labour.
The Green Party have stood down from the election in North Norfolk. They want to support the Lib Dems. This is despite refusing to back the Labour candidate at the last election because they weren’t left-wing enough. Now with a Labour manifesto supporting the end of tuition fees, the nationalisation of key industries, and a bigger tax on wealth they support someone who voted for fox hunting for sixteen years, supported a badger cull, supported fracking, and selling off of our forests. It’s bizarre logic, but I am not surprised. On a local level the Greens helped put the Tories back into power last year on Norfolk County Council.
Some people say they’ll vote for the Lib Dems because of their support for staying in the EU, but even that seems rather unclear just three weeks from an election. It seems as questionable as their pledge to end tuition fees, which was buried as soon as they got a whiff of power. While I took to the streets every week for three months campaigning with the Labour Party in North Norfolk trying to persuade people to vote remain, Norman Lamb and the Lib Dems stayed away. When it came to a vote in Parliament on the EU and Article 50 he also stayed away – he abstained again and again, taking the easy way out with such crucial votes.
For me seven years since the Tories first came to power I’m tired of having my vote taken for granted. If, in areas like North Norfolk, the Lib Dems were serious about keeping the Tories out they should have made a greater attempt at doing so when they had the opportunity. My MP’s voting record shows there simply was no attempt at opposing Tory policy, allowing the NHS to be trashed, the bedroom tax, the opening of hundreds of food banks, the Royal Mail to be sold off, tuition fees to be trebled, and Brexit to occur. The list goes on.
As the literature pours through the letterboxes from my MP claiming to be the champion of the NHS and an opposition the Tories I sigh. I simply can’t forget when we needed our MP the most to take a principled stance against the Tories he gave in for a Ministerial car.